Caring for the Addicted
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart . . . Philippians 1:7
Honestly, working in addiction medicine can be frustrating. Patients often don’t show up for their appointments. Relapse and failure are daily realities. It seems that the only clean time that some people will ever have is when they’re incarcerated. I want so badly for my patients to know recovery, to find the new life that I have, but instead, I witness failure after failure.
There are successes, and that’s why I do it. I knew going into addiction medicine that this was a disease defined by recurrent relapse, requiring repeated treatments. I knew that it often doesn’t end well, but still, I must try, doing what I can to help some find recovery.
In today’s passage, Paul described the burden he carried for those in the church in Philippi. These were people whom he’d not seen for several years, yet Paul still concerned himself with their welfare. I hold you in my heart . . . Because of Paul’s love for God, he loved others and wanted God’s best life for them.
God has loved us and in turn, we must love those around us. So, we often carry a burden for those whom we see struggling. We want them to do well, and we hurt when they don’t. Caring can be maddening. We want others to find faith and recovery, and when they don’t, we’re frustrated.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I do have a few rules of which I need to remind myself while working with and caring for those who are addicted:
- We can’t recover for others. We can give them all the best opportunities and they can still fail. It’s not our fault when others relapse.
- Boundaries are necessary. We can’t allow someone else’s destruction to spill into our lives.
- Tough love is sometimes appropriate. Love and truth must work together.
- Failure is always an option. Addiction is a lethal disease and we will regularly experience bad outcomes.
- Be patient. Multiple interventions and treatments are often required. God works on a much longer timeline than we do.
- Be compassionate and take time to understand. We have no idea what the other person has been through, but we can learn.
- Celebrate the victories. When someone is doing better than they were last week, month, or year, we should celebrate with them. That’s why we do what we do.
Yes, carrying a burden for others can be frustrating. Can you imagine though, what it’s like to be God, loving us despite our repeated failures? As he’s loved us, we must love those he’s put in our lives.